Music

Throughout high school and college, I was an avid keyboard composer. When I figured out how to sequence my Ensoniq SQ-80 synthesizer (the keyboard of choice for students on a budget; heck, I didn’t even need a computer to compose!), I was excited. When I took the job at Legend Entertainment and discovered that I could compose music for our adventure games, I was in heaven.

For some reason, I tend to compose either techno sci-fi themes, which were perfect for the Gateway games, or renaissance faire tunes, which fit in nicely with Eric and Death Gate. While I composed for a number of Legend games, the bulk of my work–and the songs I’m most proud of–can be found in Eric the Unready.

After Legend’s closure, for many years, the only way I could hear my own music was by listening to an old cassette tape. I dubbed copies of it to give to family and friends, but I always hated the low volume and constant hiss in the background. However, a couple of years back, a Legend fan with the original Roland MT-32 hardware reconstituted my music and posted the tracks to YouTube. I was so grateful to gain access to pristine versions of these pieces of music. And now, you can listen to them here.

Even though this game didn’t come first chronologically, here are the tracks I composed for Eric the Unready.

Frederik Pohl’s Gateway was the first game for which I contributed music, and I was still feeling my way in this new endeavor, especially because it was my first time dealing with the instrument set and polyphonic limitations of the MT-32. I like some of what I made, but it’s clear these were early times for me.

Here are the tracks I produced for Gateway I.

I just recently discovered that Luke Jansen produced covers of a number of my songs for Gateway, but my favorite is based on 09 Heechee Temple. He knocked it out of the park. I really enjoyed it, and I’m including it here because it’s so cool. It’s amazing how much he created inspired by the original track, which was under a minute in length.

Luckily, following Gateway, I got a chance to change things up and compose my fantasy music for Eric. Once that was done, though, I returned to my sci-fi style for Gateway II.

Here are the tracks I composed for Gateway II.

Finally, this was the last song I composed at Legend, for my first solo-designed project: Death Gate.

Why did I stop composing? Partially, it was because I didn’t have the time. Death Gate took over my life while I was working on it. I couldn’t even play volleyball, which was the one thing I did back then to relieve stress. Even my cat missed me because, during the voice recording sessions, I moved into a hotel room to be closer to the studio. I used the daytime hours to direct the sessions, and night to fix bugs.

But mostly it was because the furnace in my townhouse stopped working.

During one particularly cold Virginia winter, my heater gave up the ghost. This had the unfortunate consequence of freezing my pipes, which led to a burst water pipe right above my computer and synthesizer. Until that moment, I did all of my composition via an on-board sequencer in the synth.

After it was destroyed, I replaced the keyboard with a new, cooler one–but I never got over the learning curve of a new sequencer. It became time-intensive and frustrating for me to compose, so I let it go by the wayside for other activities.

Maybe someday I’ll return to it. In the meantime, I still enjoy listening to some of my old tunes, and even my family still listens to them occasionally. Many years ago, my wife confided in me that my music was one of the reasons she fell in love with me, so I still hold it dear.

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